Makassar, South Sulawesi, just a one hour and three minute flight from Bali. Makassar is famous for Coto Makassar. What is it? Think of a meaty beef broth that is full bodied but refreshingly light. Street-side warungs on just about every corner sell it. In Makassar they are serious about Coto.
Warung Coto Nusantara, Jalan Nusantara, is renowned for its full-flavoured version and by ten in the morning, this small no-frills cafe is wall to wall with customers. I join the crowds and squeeze onto a tin chair at a small table, rubbing shoulders with school students, businessmen and locals, to savour the pride of Makassar. “Would you like Coto with beef only or with beef and innards?” “Beef and innards. Why not? If they’re not my innards I don’t mind!’ I am presented with a small bowl of Coto, topped with a modest pile of finely chopped chives and fried shallots. Ketupat, compressed rice cake, slices of lime, kecap manis and a sambal worthy of its name, partner the dish, do-it-yourself style. The secret is revealed in the first mouthful; the stock and the slow cooking of the meat that creates a mellow, aromatic and deeply satisfying broth that’s worth all the fuss. I can identify ground peanuts, maybe a dash of tamarind and palm sugar, but the rest is a mystery. ‘In Makassar, we only eat Coto before midday.” “Obviously”, I reply, as I look around at a healthy quota of customers.
In the meantime, I am experimenting in the kitchen. How to make the perfect Coto Makassar? When I succeed I will let you know. Stay tuned.